When Everyone in the MSM is Edward R. Murrow, No One Is


“Last summer, around the time Chuck Todd took over as moderator of Meet the Press, several staffers recalled that Williams told him: ‘At least your ghost is dead. Mine is still walking the building,'” That’s from New York Magazine’s “(Actually) True War Stories at NBC News,” in which Brian Williams was forced to deal with the reputation of Tom Brokaw as a more beloved newsreader than himself. Which might explain why his strongest goal in television was leaving the news media for the entertainment division, and becoming the next Chevy Chase or Letterman at NBC rather than being the next Brokaw.


And note this:

The assignment of persuading Williams to continue to play the part of anchor fell to NBC News president Deborah Turness. A talented 47-year-old British TV-news executive, Turness had been at NBC for a year and a half. News chair Patricia Fili-Krushel hired her in May 2013 with the stated mandate to reverse ratings crises at Meet the Press and Today and the ­unspoken goal of busting up the boys’ club that had dominated network news in general and NBC News in particular. (Fili-Krushel and ­Turness declined to comment.)

Turness had long ago proved she could run with the boys. In her career at Britain’s ITV, she’d covered wars and Washington and risen through the ranks to run the news division. She was known for her tenacity. “She almost became a pain in the ass. She wouldn’t let an idea go,” says ITV chief newscaster Mark Austin. At Nightly News, Turness set about hiring more diverse correspondents and pushing for bigger exclusives, but she ran up against resistance from Williams, who was used to running his show his way. Like his predecessor Brokaw, Williams held the titles of anchor and managing editor, meaning he had final say over all the show’s content. Last summer, with ABC World News eating into Nightly’s ratings, Turness told Williams to tape more live promos, a suggestion that infuriated the anchor, according to a source. But eventually, thanks in part to some effusive praise in a presentation to advertisers in the fall, Turness won him over. Over the holidays, Williams would even send her an optimistic note, according to a friend: “2015 is going to be our year together.”

Near the end of the night at Del Posto, Turness raised her glass and presented Williams with a gift: Edward R. Murrow’s mahogany writing table. Weeks earlier, Matt Lauer had told her that the 1940s desk was for sale at an L.A. antiques dealer. The catalogue listing said: “This venerable signed desk with its special, unique provenance can be yours, assisting you in becoming the next greatest icon within your own chosen industry!” Turness hoped it would remind Williams that he was America’s most trusted anchor—the Murrow of his day. He shouldn’t give that up to be Jimmy Fallon.


But over the last decade, everyone from Jon Stewart to Keith Olbermann to Joy Behar has been dubbed “the Murrow of his day” at one point or another during their careers. Murrow earned his rep by actually doing stuff; today’s MSM throws the title around to anyone handed a microphone.

Which explains much about the politicians to which they eagerly play palace guard, of course.




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